Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Time to relax

Can't imagine a much better place for a hot spring soak. We took a cool hike through the mountains up to the spot where a hot spring fed stream and a cold stream meet, making a great temperature. #buttstagram #Iceland #reykjadalur #hotSprings #travel #butts  

 A bit of a mixed bag, no underlining theme's so I've put everything under the country from where the news comes from ...

 Starting off with three countries where we hear little from. soaking wise.
  • Azerbaijan
Not so recent anymore (Jul. 1), an article from Reuters TV on Azeri oil baths: that's crude oil!
'In energy-rich Azerbaijan locals are taking full advantage of its resources by literally swimming in black gold. The Naftalan health centre offers visitors crude oil baths, an age-old practice dating back as far as the 6th century. Seb, a tourist from Australia came to the Azeri capital to try the slick treatment. 
Australian Tourist, Seb, saying (English) "It's pretty OK, it's about the same temperature as a normal bath, it's a bit like chocolate I suppose in texture, reminds me of those chocolate fountains at the malls. Pretty warm, pretty painless, does not really smell much."
  • England
There's often not much to note from the soaking near-sterile isles of Britain, there's only 1 hot spring to note, that of Bath. And many an article focuses on the Roman heritage of the hot springs of Bath
This article from hubpages (Jan. 4) adds the Celtic history:
'The Celts believed that the goddess Sulis (or Sul) was the guardian of the hot spring. They may have believed that she was a goddess with healing powers, as was true for other Celtic goddesses of sprIngs'.
The article is quite interesting as it exposes much of the earlier history of the hot spring and the way it was used.
  • Faroer
Did we know that there's a hot spring at Fuglafjørður? Which by the way, is their only hot spring. Instagram user rakulhansen has a recent (Oct. 20) picture. 
What more do we learn from the internet on Fuglafjørður?
'There is a hot spring down by the sea south of the village. The temperature is about 18 deg. celsius around the year. The hot-spring is said to have a healing-effect. First week-end in Juli there is a civic festival in Fuglafjørður. Saturday-night people meet at the hot spring where they will sing, have speeches and have a nice time by the bonfire. (source)
Not too hot of a hot spring.


#hotspring #serrechevalier #snow #amazingtime #winter
Not so obvious, this is a commercial operation located in the French Alps but with a good view,
    • France
      Being a business entity does not always mean that soakers will be so easily plied to visit.  
      The Thermes de Luchon have seen better times. Luchonmag (Nov. 23) notes that overall visitors dropped as a nearby terme opened shop after a hefty renovation.
      Pasando calor a - 2ºC [ok_hand] [skin-tone-4] #france #termas #winter #timetorelax #mountain
      Still in France but now in the Pyrynees, source 
      • Iceland
      Iceland is often congratulated on it's successful marriage between geothermal power production and still offering or even enhancing bathing opportunities, but it's not always so rosy. 
      The Reykjavik Grapevine (Dec. 14) reports on a wild hot springs area (Eldvörp) that may well fall victim to geothermal drilling.
      'If HS Orka [the company involved] has its way, much or all of the area will be cordoned off from the general public. Drilling will commence, and with it, much of the currently visible geothermal activity – not to mention the landscape around it – will no longer be accessible to visitors and locals alike'.
      Bathing in hot springs watching sunrise, what else? #perfect #lostiniceland #hotsprings #hotbath #view #sunrise #shower #naked #noone #sky #iceland #hotpool #awesome

      Surprisingly, despite the temperatures witnessed, Icelanders like their swimming. Mostly in geothermal heated pools.
      Iceland Magazine (Oct.) has a feature on this love affair:
      'Icelanders are mad about their swimming pools; It‘s where people gather at the end of the day to unwind and have a little tête-à-tête. Filmmaker Jón Karl Helgason decided to document this custom in his film Sundlaugar á Íslandi (Swimming pools in Iceland), and the end result offers a wonderful insight into the country’s unique swimming culture'.
      Despite this, prices for entry to Reykjavik's city swimming pools will go up (, Oct. 9) with no less than 40%. The reason not to be concerned:
      'Reykjavík Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson, who submitted the proposal, turned to Facebook to defend the decision, which has already been met with considerable criticism on social media.
      “Individual fees will go up, but all discount cards (10 and 20 ticket cards) and child admission will remain the same,” he said. “It will continue to be free for the elderly and disabled. For those city residents who buy a card, which the article [that Dagur linked to with the post] points out most people do, the effect of the fare-raising will be none. Swimming remains the cheapest, and many say the best, form of working out.”
      The only people buying these individual fees are ... foreign tourists.

      A local guy told me 200000 tourists come to this place every year. When you go on a rainy December Tuesday, you get to be by yourself. #reykjadalur #hotriver #iceland #icyhike #noneedforswimsuit 
      And there's no fees to be paid either, source.

      The secret is out, so captions the Reykjavik Grapevine (Nov. 24). What secret? The Secret Lagoon of Flúðir:
      'Tucked away down a humble dirt track by the river Mjóitangi, which flows through the town centre, lies a relatively new and increasingly famous attraction. Known to locals as Gamla Laugin (“The Old Pool”), it was rebranded as “The Secret Lagoon” two summers ago by a local called Björn “Bjössi” Kjartansson, who renovated the antique swimming place and reopened it for business in 2014.
      The water trickles in from a hot spring, which can be viewed by walking around a new path. There’s a small geyser that erupts every ten minutes, and some bubbling cauldrons of hot water. Steam rises over the river all over this area of Flúðir. I wonder if the lagoon, which has become a popular must-see fixture on many visitors’ itineraries, has brought some fresh air to this small, tucked away village.
      “It’s been building up,” says Bjössi. “It was not so busy the first summer, but there were many more people this summer.”


      #hotsprings #ischea 
      • Italy
      From LaFune.EU come two articles (here and here) on the #Savebullicame campaingn (2 and 3 Jan.). 

      Some background: the central Italian town of Viterbo is host to many natural hot springs, many though falling victim to uncontrolled business interests. Probably the hot spring with largest cultural interest is that of Bullicame. However besides the free springs surrounding the source, waters are also syphoned off to two private spa's located nearby. 
      The public is using all legal ways to avoid them taken unfair control over the access to the waters.

      The articles highlight the plight of the Bullicame hot spring and call for the city authorities to take measure so that the public spring becomes usable again.

      Meanwhile the same newsoutlet (Oct. 23) also had an article on nearby Il Bagnaccio hot spring, a more enhanced soak. It reports that the municipality wanted the activities at this site to stop but after being confronted by concerned soakers the municipality of Viterbo is backtracking. Or at least thinking as such ...

      Earlier (Dec. 10) campaigner Giovanni Faperdue added on his Facebook site the news that one of the commercial operations failed in a bid to overturn restrictions imposed on the amount of water it can drain from the Bullicame spring. Lively discussion follows as one commenter laments the stance that it's anti-business ...
        #terme#acqua#calda#bollente#termale#quarantagradi#bellissimo [heart] [joy] [muscle] [muscle] [+1]
      • Romania
      A very recent wintery soak near Băile Herculane, source.

      Sascha's soaks

      Visocka Banja, Serbia
      Not a real hot spring because only 27°C warm, but worth a visit. 
      It is not easy to go there when you come from … like I did, because it is a 10 km gravel road that you have to follow and again 5 km asphalt road when you come to factory with a blue roof. There is a sign to follow a small street to the left into a canyon. After 2 or 3 km you reach the canyon where is a parking place and a bar. From here, you have to walk 10 min upstream. Then you reach an area where everywhere in the rocks the warm water comes out. 
      The main sources are captured and linked into a beton [concrete] pool and into another covered beton pool. The water temperature is the same but according to locals, you should not swim in the covered pool and should not stay longer than 20 minutes. 
      The water is beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism, heart problems, nervous diseases and eye problems. 
      There are also rests of a fortification, but it is not clear if these are medieval remains or were built by Romans. In any case you feel that you soak in place with history. 
      Amongst locals, this place is well known, so do not expect to be alone in the pools.
      My evaluation: 2 of 5 stars because of the low temperature

      More secrets
      • Spain
      A photographic accord of a school trip to Baños of Aquis Querquennis, Bande, Galicia.  
      Below a recent impression from Bande, not s aschool trip ....


      First bath of the year [sweat_drops] #naturalspa #hotwater #relaxingtime

      Again slightly older news. The Dragon Festival is a festival held at the hot springs of Santa Fe, not too far from Granada city in Andaluzia. 
      A report in the Ahora Granada (Dec. 28, 2014) concerns the aftermath. Since the festival of spring 2014 the amount of refuse and rubbish has reached new heights so claims the article. Volunteers are hoping the municipality will address this. Though they also emphasize that a lasting solution (a development with golf course) would have a far bigger negative impact on the environment.

      How to design a new hot spring spa? The designers at ooio have plans for put forward for Fuencaliente, La Palma on the Canary islands. 
      Madrugar en domingo no parece buena idea, pero si lo es [dizzy] #termas #lluvia #otoño #Secreto #granada 
      • Turkey
      Not hot spring but certainly a traditional wellness approach: a Turkish bath. Mostly Amelie visits a hammam there and put down some words to describe the experience (Dec. 23:
      'I read so many Turkish hammam horror stories online from other travel bloggers that my curiosity got sufficiently piqued: I just had to volunteer myself on the naked altar of the body scrub sacrifice for the greater good of this blog (I know, tough…) – a rather painful and awkward experience by many if not all accounts. Tales of buck-naked merciless scrubs in crowded rooms, with nude masseuses getting to second base with prude North Americans had me sort of worried as I stepped inside Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamami in Istanbul, not really knowing if the tales were true'.
      After the experience:
      'Unlike some of the horrifying tales I have read online, I feel serene, relaxed, cleansed and my skin feels amazing. I would go to the hammam every day if I could! It’s such a beautiful ritual and tradition and I urge you to try one if you visit Turkey'.

      Monday, January 4, 2016


      One of the most sought after locations for a soak on the Azorean island of São Miguel are the hot springs known as Poça da Dona Beija, located off the Rua Agua Quente (Hot Water street) of Furnas
      Together with the Terra Nostra hot spring these are the major soaking attractions of Furnas, São Miguels geothermal capital. It seems soaking with nature (even though enhanced) trumps whatever you can experience in a man made environment.

      The pools of Dona Beija (so called after a Brazilian tv soap opera) have in recent years have been upgraded and restyled. What was once a natural paradise has been transformed with the assistance of an award winning architectual design to what transpires as a beautiful setting for the half a dozen or so pools. For more follow on this transformation this link

      But we're getting ahead of ourselves. 

      In practice
      If seeking this soak, they are located just outside of the center of the village of Furnas, off the small street mentioned above. 
      There's a tiny car park adjacent, on the day(s!) of visit unfit to store the many soakers who were also seeking solace. 

      This even though it was deep in November, way outside the main tourist season for the Azorean isles. 
      It seems the islands (or at least São Miguel) are seeing a boom in off-season tourism as the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet are making it more affordable to get here.

      The entrance to the pools is a tidy 3 Euro's, which is a steal for what lies ahead. 
      Before entering there's half an hour's read of rules (photo below) what to adhere to when soaking (f.i. no practice naturism, no cycling!) Here's a concise version


      But once past the entrance, everything is neatly organised with a guards person politely explaining where is what (changing cubicles / lockers, free baskets, etc.). 
      The soaks come with it's own gift shop which sells tourism nick-knacks as well as merchandise. An on-loan basket for carrying around things in the soaking park is free.

      Beyond the shop, across the stream, on your right are a number of changing cubicles, but not nearly enough to deal with today's visitors. 

      Upstream along the stream are a number of tubs / pools, which luckily are not too packed, not too packed at all. 
      The baths are all bliss: quite hot and deep with a ledge over the stream and surrounded in greenery. Great. All very nice. 

      At the top of the path is a cave from which the hot waters are sourced, which in the pre-development days was easily accessible. Now there's a fence to keep soakers out.
      This source is called Banhos dos Cabaços, here's a snippet of info:
      'The water emerges at a temperature of 39 °C and is acidified. The spring lies in an excavated cavity at the bottom of the slope on the right bank of the Ribeira do Lameiro, on the western partof the parish of Furnas. In the past, people used the high temperature water for bathing'.
      Also heed the yellow waters of all the waters here: they care to share their yellow hue to all not so yellow: your skin, your light swimmers and even your hair.
      One comment which seems to be a returning feature on this blog: there are only two showers which are only operable once a pre-purchased coin is inserted. In other words: hygiene seems not be a prime concern for proprietors. With hardly any showers (or nothing gratuit), this means nobody showers pre-soak. Now why should soakers? No one else does. And in these times of germophobia, all other persons are dirty, save one self .... 

      What also transpires is that soaking seems to be a very selfie culture: everybody with their stick (that's a selfie stick) prancing around to show-off themselves. 
      Today's culture is a look-at-me culture. 
      Showers are for after it seems as the uptake of sulfurous smell and rusty skin require a douche, how else to venture into the wider world spotless and perfect?

      I believe there are about a million photo's out there on the internet of Poça da Dona Beija, many glowing reviews as well, though none actually adding anything to what's written above. 
      So we'll leave at that; if a soak is good what more info would you need? 

      Rest assured, the Poça da Dona Beija baths are considered even by tripadvisor the no. 1 thing to do in Furnas and no. 3 on the whole island. The recent reviews on this website are consistently high: helpful staff, beautiful surroundings, cheap and an overall excellent experience, especially during the evening / at night.

      The Poça da Dona Beija maintains it's own excellent website. Some general info:
      'The Poça da Dona Beija, also known as "Poça da Juventude" ("Youth Pools") or "Poça do Paraíso" ("Paradise Pools"), is located in the valley of Furnas, in an area known as "Zona das Águas Quentes" and it's a pleasant thermal spot for leisure and well-being.
      The name comes from the brazillan soap opera "Dona Beija". It was still fresh in people's memory romantic scenes of the small waterfall where the main character, Dona Beija, used to bathe, when this location started to gain more notoriety, thus giving it its current name'.
      • 'The yellowish colour of the water is due to the presence of cyanobacterias, photosynthetic oxygenic beings, that when found in iron-rich environments react with the free iron, oxidizing it.
      • Nowadays Poça da Dona Beija’s ferruginous muds are indicated for cutaneous invigoration, and it’s hot waters are therapeutic. We receive tourists from all over the world looking for some time of relaxation and well-being.
      • The iron-rich waters are used by the local people to water the taro root plantation, because the mud is considered an ecological fertilizer for it, and its amount makes the Furnas people grand taro root planters of the island of Sao Miguel'.
      Taro patch

      To make this experience even more worthwhile why not combine it with say a moderate trek to a waterfall? 

      Sort of nearby (30 min by car ...), the village of Faial da Terra lies on the ocean at the end of a swift flowing river whose carved valley is still very much a natural habitat. 
      This valley hosts two waterfalls: the lower Salto do Prego which is just an hours walk upstream of Faial. Uphill you can walk through the renovated village of Sanguinho, downhill follow the river. Paths are well maintained.

      From Salto do Prego (pictured above), it's another hours walk along the stream through the forest to the other waterfall named Salto do Cagarrão ....

      Euro soaks visited